SUMMARY

Leaf was founded with the mission of helping refugees safely store and transfer assets across borders using blockchain technology. Leaf is an integrated financial services provider whose mobile platform enables the conversion of physical to digital currency through blockchain technology. Refugees deposit cash at a mobile money agent in their home country and then send that money into a Leaf account. The company stores the transaction on the blockchain and converts the deposit into a stable currency for safekeeping. While in transit, refugees can check their balance on the public ledger. Leaf’s solution also allows friends and family members abroad to contribute into the refugee’s account. Once the refugee is in a place of safety, they can convert their assets into the new local currency or use the balance as collateral on a microloan. The platform does not require a smartphone.

Company Overview

CEO: Nat Robinson
Website: leafglobalfintech.com
Founded: 2017
Market: Rwanda, DRC, Burundi
Product: Virtual banking platform
Sponsor: Accion Venture Lab

Over the next six months, Leaf will receive $100,000 USD in grant capital and receive mentoring from its Catalyst Fund sponsoring investor, Accion Venture Lab. The company will also work with BFA to identify specific advisory engagements towards strategic milestones and a growth trajectory.


THE Problem and Solution

The UN has designated 65 million people as refugees with an additional 100 million living in a state of social, economic and political crisis. Most affected areas lack the adequate banking infrastructure to move cash into digital currency or meet the needs of refugees. When forced to flee, many refugees are unable to get to a bank or money transfer location to pick up funds for their journey, thus limiting them to whatever cash they have on hand.

Leaf operates as a virtual bank for refugees, allowing customers to safely store assets over time and transport them across borders for minimal fees. Leaf can provide financial security even when a refugee does not know where they are going or how long it will take to get there. By converting mobile money into stable investments over a blockchain platform (backed by USD), Leaf operates profitably while extending services currently unavailable to refugees. The refugee is spared from the risk of violence, theft and currency devaluation associated with carrying cash while in flight. Friends and family abroad can also deposit into the refugee’s account, thus creating a cross-border connection to a community during a turbulent period. Leaf takes advantage of the 6 to 18 months refugee resettlement cycle by using that time to invest customers’ savings in order to turn a profit. Leaf can offer services at a much cheaper rate than current offerings because of the unique features of blockchain technology.

The Innovation

  • Uses Stellar’s blockchain technology to convert mobile money to virtual currency and store deposits at a locked value.
  • Works with developers behind a variety of cryptocurrencies designed around the virtue of stability rather than capital accumulation.
  • Provides secure transactions using a voice and facial recognition biometrics system to manage customer identity.
  • Completely eliminates the risks of carrying cash across borders including violence, theft and natural disasters for refugees.
  • Partners with banks, mobile money providers, and MNOs to offer secure asset transport across borders.
  • Platform supports SMS interface and multiple languages (Swahili and French).

The Value Proposition

  • Offers a safe and convenient asset transfer solution across borders for refugees leveraging blockchain technology.
  • Provides an affordable payment solution to refugees crossing multiple countries.
  • Provides an identity management system for refugees.
  • Blockchain technologies enable Leaf to provide a system that works across various countries, banks and financial platforms.

THE LEARNING AGENDA

Leaf is aligned with the Catalyst Fund learning agenda. Their challenges could help answer the following questions within the learning pillars of:

  • How can inclusive fintech companies best integrate with mobile money platforms using blockchain technology?
  • How can inclusive fintech companies optimize for customer trust via blockchain technology?


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